Last time I wrote about The Walking Dead was 2 years ago, during my Journalism course. I got a B for that piece, as my Course Leader thought I had focused too much on the psychology of the show rather than the show itself.
Fair enough, but I’m about to do the same thing all over again.
This time it’s not marked and doesn’t have to go in the Portfolio though, so I don’t have to worry and can write whatever the hell I want – bliss.
So, The Walking Dead is really not about Walkers or gore. It really isn’t, it’s about human nature, pure and simple.
What happens when the rules of society have broken down? What happens is that people lose that superficial veneer and their true nature is exposed.
How far would you go to survive? Are you ready to forget your principles and lose your integrity to save yourself, or your loved ones?
I’ve always been interested in psychology and that’s why I’m fascinated by the show. I think it’s really well done and well written. Sure, there’s been the occasional episode where things drag for a while, and they are a bit too fond of the crazy cliff-hangers but overall, it’s totally worth hanging in there.
I watched the latest episode last night and I absolutely loved it because it was all about the psychology.
Rick and the group have got to Alexandria and they are pretty weary. And who can blame them? Last time they thought they had found a sanctuary it turned out to be a place filled with a bunch of cannibals who wasted no time in storing them for later consumption.
So, yeah, Rick and the others are unsure, but as they slowly start to realise that maybe Alexandria is safe after all – they are faced with other problems. Alexandria residents are “soft”, they haven’t been out there, they don’t know what it’s like to fight every day for your life. The showdown between the new recruits and the old-standing Alexandria residents after they went “on a run” was riveting. Those “Alexandrians” made Glenn look like the toughest badass ever, even though he’s hardly the strongest of the group.
The group has been in the wild for so long that returning to a semblance of civilisation is an understandable shock. They get to shower, shave and get a haircut (Rick’s face emerged!), use electricity and, even (gasp) have access to books!
The return to civilisation was hardest on Daryl. Now, I have to say that Daryl is my favourite character by a mile. If I had to pick anyone to be on my team, then Daryl would be my first choice because he’s a tough mother*****r and because I know he’d have my back, no matter what. Yeah, I wouldn’t get to have scintillating conversations with him because, let’s face it, the guy ain’t a talker but that’s fine – he doesn’t need to be.
Daryl and a safe haven, a place with rules, a place that looks a hell of a lot like “before” shit went down and the world went to hell – Daryl was never going to like that.
From past episodes, we had a glimpse of what life was like for Daryl before the apocalypse. Daryl is a hick, a toughie who grew up in a house where he (probably) had to listen to how life was shit, and it was so because of all the faggots and the blacks. Daryl had a crap older brother who pushed him around, Daryl got on the wrong side of the law. In the world before the apocalypse, Daryl was a pretty insignificant worm.
Except we know he wasn’t really because Daryl is a good guy, but that good guy was only revealed because the world went to hell. That’s why I believe in meritocracy, because Daryl is fundamentally good, despite his shit start in life.
He has become a valuable and respected member of the group and that would never have happened in the “real” world.
Hence why Daryl must have been so conflicted getting to Alexandria. Here he finds himself in a kind of “normal society” again, it must bring back all the crap memories from before. How is he going to fit in now? Poor guy, I wanted to give him a hug every time the camera showed him on the porch still in his (presumably) stinking clothes.
Then there’s Rick. He has changed so much since the show started: this is the law enforcement officer with all the principles and the integrity – a lot of it which had to go out the window as the show progressed because Rick is determined for him and his kids to survive. It has been fascinating to watch him, torn and conflicted so many times and gradually coming to the realisation that: “sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Rick now is a very different Rick than the one we started out with, and this was perfectly illustrated by the brilliant ending to Sunday’s episode. Rick said in his “film” when he entered Alexandria that “they should keep their gates closed” because “people are always looking for an angle to exploit”.
Was he talking generally, or about himself? Most probably both, as the episode ended with Rick telling Carol and Daryl that: “if these people can’t make it, then we’ll just take the town for ourselves”.
Fuck almighty, that was a statement that blew me away because of the implications. The Rick we first met would never ever have considered such a possibility, no bloody way. But this is the new Rick, the one that’s been through hell and back and has changed a hell of a lot, shedding principles and integrity along the way. I mean, he is still a good guy, just more realistic and ready to do what it takes for his “family” to survive. Rick now knows that between white and black there are many shades of grey – life isn’t easy and survival is fucking tough – it also demands sacrifices, some of them to do with your soul.
I haven’t even touched on Carol and I LOVE Carol – the woman who went from the abused meek wife to a kick-ass broad – that wouldn’t have happened without the Apocalyptic new world either. Like Daryl, Carol has become “someone” since the Walkers took over – or rather she has become the person she was always meant to be. That’s what an apocalypse will do for you: either bring out the worst OR the best in you – and most often, both at the same time.
The Walking Dead: psychology and the various layers of human behaviour – the Walkers and the gore are just an added bonus. Fact.